Saturday, June 6, 2009

Why Baseball is Great

There are a million reasons why baseball is a great game. Friday night proved the truth of the old axiom that says "every time you go to the ballpark you might see something you've never seen before."

In Los Angeles, the two best teams in the majors record wise matched up for the second of a four game set. After winning game one of the series, the Phillies led the Dodgers 3-2 entering the ninth inning. Phillies closer Brad Lidge entered the game and retired the first two Dodgers to put Philadelphia within an out of taking the second game of the series. Lidge, who has been pretty much untouchable since I wrote last week that I think he's hurt, walked the next hitter and allowed a single to put runners on first and second with two outs. Russell Martin followed for the Dodgers, hitting a grounder to Phils third baseman Pedro Feliz. Feliz is one of the best defensive third basemen in the majors, but Martin's ball handcuffed him and kicked away to his left, allowing Martin to beat the throw and load the bases. Andre Ethier followed with a double to bring in two runs and turn a 3-2 Dodger loss into a 4-3 LA win. As a fan of the Phillies, I wasn't too happy to see this, but it shows again how you never know exactly what can happen in a baseball game. The Dodgers were down to their last out against the unbeatable closer, then won anyway. They won not because Lidge had no command or gave up a pair of 500 foot home runs, but because they got a break when a great defensive player didn't make a routine play.

At about the same time several hundred miles north in Seattle, the Twins and Mariners squared off in the type of game people will tell stories about years from now. Tied 1-1 in the top of the 10th inning, Joe Mauer led off with a double and the M's intentionally walked Justin Morneau. Jason Kubel appeared to have given the Twins a three-run lead, but Mariner centerfielder Franklin Gutierrez reached over the wall in left center and snagged Kubel's drive in the heel of his glove to record the first out of the inning. While the play looked as if it may give the Twins the lead, it did advance Mauer to third. With .179 hitting Matt Tolbert at the plate, the Twins attempted a suicide squeeze, but Seattle's rookie manager Don Wakamatsu sniffed it out and ordered a pitchout, which blew up the squeeze attempt as Mauer was tagged out. With two outs now, Tolbert floated a pop fly to left that appeared destined to pull the Mariners back in off the ledge after almost being pushed off twice. However, Wladimir Balentien misjudged the ball and couldn't come up with the catch, allowing Morneau to come around to score the go-ahead run. Facing a 2-1 deficit with two outs in the bottom of the inning, Ichiro Suzuki came to the plate with one more chance to extend his 27-game hitting streak. Twin closer Joe Nathan struck him out to cap it all, giving the Twins a win, ending Ichiro's career-best hit streak, and dealing the Mariners a bitter defeat.

Friday night gave us just two more reasons to keep getting out to the ballpark. You never know what you might see while you're there.

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